November 14, 2019

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Focus on show, not screens

Jack White's concert policy puts phones out of reach

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 1/11/2018 (377 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 1/11/2018 (377 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

When Jack White fans purchased tickets to any of the shows on his current Boarding House Reach solo tour — which stops at Bell MTS Place Tuesday night — they also received a warning.

"Please note: this a phone-free show."

Concert preview

Click to Expand

Jack White

Bell MTS Place

Tuesday, 8 p.m.

Tickets $60.50-$151, available at Ticketmaster

The American rock musician, formerly one-half of duo the White Stripes, has been vocal about his dislike of fans watching concerts through their screens and has now actively taken measures to prevent that from happening.

Everyone who attends the concert will have to place their phone in a Yondr pouch, a small fabric case that is locked at the top and will remain locked for the duration of the evening. The case stays with the phone's owner; however, the device will not be usable. In the event phone-use is necessary, attendees will have to make their way out of the concert bowl to one of several Yondr stations set up in the lobby or concourse of the venue to unlock the pouch and access their device.

"We think you’ll enjoy looking up from your gadgets for a little while and experience music and our shared love of it in person. Upon arrival at the venue, all phones and other photo or video-capturing gizmos will be secured in a Yondr pouch that will be unlocked at the end of the show," said a statement from White's team.

Singer and songwriter Jack White from the U.S. performs on the Auditorium Stravinski stage during the 52nd Montreux Jazz Festival, in Montreux, Switzerland, Tuesday, July 10, 2018. The event running from June 29 to July 14 will feature 380 concerts.

VALENTIN FLAURAUD/KEYSTONE VIA AP

Singer and songwriter Jack White from the U.S. performs on the Auditorium Stravinski stage during the 52nd Montreux Jazz Festival, in Montreux, Switzerland, Tuesday, July 10, 2018. The event running from June 29 to July 14 will feature 380 concerts.

"The official tour photographer will be posting photos and videos after the show... Repost our photos and videos as much as you want and enjoy a phone-free, 100 per cent human experience."

Yondr — an American start-up founded in 2014 — has been used by a long list of high-profile entertainers, including Alicia Keys, Guns n' Roses, Dave Chapelle and Chris Rock, but this will be Bell MTS Place's first foray into using the technology.

White's team was up front about the artist's desire to use Yondr before True North Sports and Entertainment booked him to play, and the tour is providing all of the necessary equipment, though the venue will need to help with the execution.

"It’s new and it’s unique and I understand the sentiment — he’s a guy who is tired of looking up from the stage and seeing people on their phones," says Kevin Donnelly, senior vice-president of venues and entertainment for True North. "Every teacher has felt that way, any speaker, anybody at a dinner looking and seeing everyone glued to their phone.

"So he’s trying to make a statement, I suppose, that there’s a time for your phones and there’s a time to get together and enjoy some rock music, which is what a concert was originally intended to be."

But the announcement of White's Winnipeg performance and his device ban couldn't have come at a worse time for True North, which has only recently started using a mobile-only ticketing system at the arena as well as at the Burton Cummings Theatre; Donnelly admits the message of "bring your phone for your tickets, but then lock it up for the next two hours," is a confusing one.

A box of Yondr phone pouches sit in a box prior to a June 14 performance by Dave Chappelle at the Aztec Theater in San Antonio. Yondr pouches disable cell phone usage inside the venue, creating a phone-free zone.

BAHRAM MARK SOBHANI FOR THE WASHINGTON POST

A box of Yondr phone pouches sit in a box prior to a June 14 performance by Dave Chappelle at the Aztec Theater in San Antonio. Yondr pouches disable cell phone usage inside the venue, creating a phone-free zone.

"The timing in terms of clear and concise messaging to our public couldn’t have been more awkward for us," Donnelly says with a laugh.

"He didn’t know we were rolling into mobile ticketing and we didn’t know this tour was going to confirm at this time… it was virtually the same week (as True North started with paperless ticketing) and it’s kind of ironic that we’re saying, ‘We know you have a phone, use your phone to enter the facility, it’s a safe, efficient method to control admissions,’ and he’s saying, ‘And don’t use that phone once you get here.’

"We had some media actually misconstrue the message, saying, ‘Leave your phone at home,’ which isn’t what it is. Bring your phone, connect with your friends, but when you get here, put it in this pouch and pay attention to the show for two hours. But again the mixed message of, 'Use your phone, leave your phone at home,’ couldn’t have been more untimely for us."

To make matters worse, fans in other cities have experienced difficulties trying to use digital tickets at White's shows, having their phones locked up before they even make it to the lobby.

Brooke Kwochka travelled from Regina to Minneapolis to see White's concert and says the Yondr folks locked up attendees phones at the door, making it impossible to access their ticket files when it came time to scan them for admission. Kwochka had called ahead and was told she would need to get hers printed at the venue, so she was all set upon arrival, but others weren't so lucky.

However, once inside, Kwochka says the no-phone policy made her concert-watching experience better.

Benji Spanier explains the process of locking a guest's phone in a Yondr pouch prior to entering a performance by Dave Chappelle at the Aztec Theater in San Antonio.

BAHRAM MARK SOBHANI FOR THE WASHINGTON POST

Benji Spanier explains the process of locking a guest's phone in a Yondr pouch prior to entering a performance by Dave Chappelle at the Aztec Theater in San Antonio.

"When I first got the notice about the no-phone policy, I'll be honest, I was annoyed. I travelled a long way for the show and was irritated that I wouldn't have anything to commemorate that. That being said, it was actually great," she says, adding that the process of locking/unlocking the phone pouches was "super smooth."

"As for the show itself, the no-phone policy made a huge difference. I go to a lot of concerts and it was amazing to see people just be present and enjoy what was happening instead of watching it through the screen of their phones. To me it kind of amplified that all of these people came together for one reason: to watch the show."

Winnipeg fans won't need to worry about not being able to use their digital tickets, though; Donnelly says phones will be locked up after security and admission has been taken care of.

As for fans being upset about not being able to use their phones, Donnelly doesn't expect too much pushback.

"I think that those people who have bought a Jack White ticket and are a Jack White fan understand and get what he’s trying to do," Donnelly says.

"He’s just saying, ‘Hey, for the next two hours, lose yourself in the music, put your phone away and check in later.’"

 

erin.lebar@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @NireRabel

Erin Lebar

Erin Lebar
Multimedia producer

Erin Lebar is a multimedia producer who spends most of her time writing music- and culture-related stories for the Arts & Life section. She also co-hosts the Winnipeg Free Press's weekly pop-culture podcast, Bury the Lede.

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